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New England Revolution’s grasp on playoff spot slipping fast

new england revolution players mass confrontation
Aug 4, 2018; Orlando, FL, USA; A fight breaks out in the final seconds of a match between the Orlando City FC and the New England Revolution during the second half of a match at Orlando City Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Revolution let vital points slip away Saturday night in a 3-3 draw with Orlando City SC. New England gave up two leads to drop points in Orlando and remain winless in five games.

Here are three takeaways from the Revolution’s performance:

Back line reverses attack’s sterling performance

Michael Mancienne can’t come soon enough.

The newly-acquired central defender from England wasn’t available Saturday due to his pending visa and international transfer certificate, but all signs point to the Revolution needing new blood at the back.

New England has conceded at least two goals per game in five of its last six matches. That statistic is a key reason for why the Revs are winless in five games and are currently on the brink of being outside the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.

While it is true that match referee Chico Grajeda called a somewhat soft foul on Revolution rookie defender Brandon Bye in stoppage time Saturday night to cause the free kick that led to Orlando’s equalizer, it should be said that New England’s marking on the decisive play was poor.

Ditto goes for Orlando’s second goal, which was scored by Amro Tarek, who was left completely unmarked on another set piece to score.

The Revolution came out of the gates flying and scored three goals. But with this back line, no lead is safe.

Juan Agudelo, Teal Bunbury come through

Both of New England’s strikers had sterling games Saturday, but for slightly different reasons.

Juan Agudelo has been in impeccable form as of late after returning from injury, but he hasn’t had the results to show for it. He finally broke that trend against Orlando by converting the opening goal off a throw-in just 7 minutes into the game.

It was Agudelo’s second goal of the season – his first goal since March 24 – and a welcome sign to a Revolution attack that needs to show its array of offensive weapons now more than ever.

Teal Bunbury, typically a starter, was relegated to the bench but came on as a second-half substitute. Not starting appeared to have sparked Bunbury, who came through with what should have been the Revolution’s game-winning goal just four minutes after entering the game.

The goal was Bunbury’s team-leading 11th of the season and his first since a 3-2 win over D.C. United on June 30. After going five games without a goal, Bunbury made an immediate impact upon coming off the bench; he found himself just outside the area and took a sleek touch after taking possession from Agudelo, made a nifty step-over to get in space and coolly slotted past Orlando’s Earl Edwards Jr.  

Bunbury was right to feel frustrated after the game, uttering, “Enough is enough” with regard to his team dropping points.

Weak grasp on a playoff spot

One month ago, New England seemed like a team destined to return to the playoffs after a two-year absence.

But now?

The Revs are starting to look like pretenders.

Maybe the Revolution’s favorable, home-heavy schedule in the first half of the season skewed the prospects for what by all accounts is a much-improved team under first-year head coach Brad Friedel.

Nevertheless, New England is still in control of its own narrative. Despite its five-game winless run and a miserable defensive record over the last few weeks, the Revs remain in the Eastern Conference’s sixth and final playoff spot.

However, the Revolution are just one point ahead of the Philadelphia Union, which they play twice in the next three weeks. The first of those two games is at home at Gillette Stadium Aug. 11. The second is in Chester, Pa., Aug. 25.

Sandwiched between those games is New England’s first-ever visit to the newly-opened Audi Field to face conference bottom-dwellers D.C. United.

Each of the next three games will be a stiff test for a Revs team in desperate need of a win. Some of the teams behind New England – Philadelphia, Chicago Fire and Toronto FC – are starting to look large in the rear-view mirror.

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